Sodium hydroxide and chlorine are commercially produced by the chloralkali process, and there is no need to isolate them to prepare sodium hypochlorite. Hence NaOCl is prepared industrially by the electrolysis of sodium chloride solution with minimal separation between the anode and the cathode. The solution must be kept below 40 °C (by cooling coils) to prevent the formation of sodium chlorate.
The commercial solutions always contain significant amounts of sodium chloride (common salt) as the main byproduct, as seen in the equation above.
A 12% solution is widely used in waterworks for the chlorination of water and a 15% solution is more commonly used for disinfection of waste water in treatment plants. High-test hypochlorite (HTH) is sold for chlorination of swimming pools and contains approximately 30% calcium hypochlorite. The crystalline salt is also sold for the same use; this salt usually contains less than 50% of calcium hypochlorite. However, the level of "active chlorine" may be much higher.
It can also be found on store shelves in "Daily Sanitizing Sprays", as the sole active ingredient at 0.0095%.
US Government regulations (21 CFR Part 178) allow food processing equipment and food contact surfaces to be sanitized with solutions containing bleach provided the solution is allowed to drain adequately before contact with food, and the solutions do not exceed 200 parts per million (ppm) available chlorine (for example, one tablespoon of typical household bleach containing 5.25% sodium hypochlorite, per gallon of water). If higher concentrations are used, the surface must be rinsed with potable water after sanitizing.
A 1 in 5 dilution of household bleach with water (1 part bleach to 4 parts water) is effective against many bacteria and some viruses, and is often the disinfectant of choice in cleaning surfaces in hospitals (Primarily in the United States). The solution is corrosive, and needs to be thoroughly removed afterwards, so the bleach disinfection is sometimes followed by an ethanol disinfection.
Sodium hypochlorite has been used for the disinfection of drinking water. A concentration equivalent to about 1 liter of household bleach per 4000 liters of water is used. The exact amount required depends on the water chemistry, temperature, contact time, and presence or absence of sediment. In large-scale applications, residual chlorine is measured to titrate the proper dosing rate. For emergency disinfection, the United States Environmental Protection Agency recommends the use of 2 drops of 5%ac household bleach per quart of water. If the treated water doesn't smell of bleach, 2 more drops are to be added.
The use of chlorine-based disinfectants in domestic water, although widespread, has led to some controversy due to the formation of small quantities of harmful byproducts such as chloroform.
Sodium hypochlorite in the form of household bleach is often used to oxidize foul-smelling thiol wastes generated in a chemistry laboratory.
Household bleach and pool chlorinator solutions are typically stabilized by a significant concentration of lye (caustic soda, NaOH) as part of the manufacturing reaction. Skin contact will produce caustic irritation or burns due to defatting and saponification of skin oils and destruction of tissue. The slippery feel of bleach on skin is due to this process.
Sodium thiosulfate (hypo) is an effective chlorine neutralizer. Rinsing with a 5mg/L solution, followed by washing with soap and water, quickly removes chlorine odor from the hands.
Chlorination of drinking water can oxidize organic contaminants, producing trihalomethanes (also called haloforms), which are carcinogenic. The extent of the hazard thus created is a subject of disagreement.
Mixing bleach with some household cleaners can be hazardous. For example, mixing an acid cleaner with sodium hypochlorite bleach generates chlorine gas. Mixing with ammonia solutions (including urine) produces chloramines. Both chlorine gas and chloramine gas are toxic. Bleach can react violently with hydrogen peroxide and produce oxygen gas:
It is estimated that there are about 3300 accidents needing hospital treatment caused by sodium hypochlorite solutions each year in British homes (RoSPA, 2002).
A number of commonly used household cleaning products (bleaches, mildew stain removers, toilet cleaners, cleaning sprays, gels, and scouring powders) contain sodium hypochlorite that is often accompanied by many other chemicals (e.g., surfactants and fragrances). Mixing bleach with ammonia-based cleaners results in formation of chloramines while mixing it with an acid-based cleaner will cause chlorine gas release. Therefore, the main concern associated with the use of chlorine-bleach-containing cleaning-products has been mixing them with other cleaning products that can generate hazardous fumes.
A recent study indicated for the first time that sodium hypochlorite and organic chemicals (e.g., surfactants, fragrances) contained in several household cleaning products react to generate chlorinated volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These chlorinated compounds are emitted during cleaning applications and most of them are toxic and probable human carcinogens.The study showed that indoor air concentrations significantly increase (8-52 times for chloroform and 1-1170 times for carbon tetrachloride) during the use of bleach containing products. The increase in chlorinated volatile organic compound concentrations was the lowest for plain bleach and the highest for the products in the form of “thick liquid and gel”. The significant increases observed in indoor air concentrations of several chlorinated VOCs (especially carbon tetrachloride and chloroform) indicate that the household bleach use is a newly identified source that could be important in terms of inhalation exposure to these compounds . Preliminary risk assessment suggested that using these cleaning products may significantly increase the cancer risk. Further studies are also needed for a detailed investigation of the health risks associated with the use of these products and other possible exposure routes (i.e., dermal). However, these are not the only adverse environmental effects of the released VOCs, they are also ozone depleting compounds and powerful greenhouse gases.
Weighing the options. (choosing between chlorine gas or sodium hypochlorite as the processing chemicals for water treatment facilities)
Jun 01, 1997; Water treatment facilities across the country are weighing the options of replacing chlorine gas with sodium hypochlorite as the...
Patent Issued for Electrolytic Process to Produce Sodium Hypochlorite Using Sodium Ion Conductive Ceramic Membranes
Oct 03, 2012; By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Biotech Week -- According to news reporting originating from Alexandria, Virginia, by...